Long-term report: Getting to grips with the clever tech in our BMW 2 Series Active Tourer
The 2 Series Active Tourer is one of BMW’s latest models and comes with fresh technology – and there’s good and bad news.
The whole reason why we test cars over an extended period of time is to discover exactly what that particular car is like in the real world.
Sounds a bit pompous, I know, but I’ve been reminded exactly why we put our long-term test cars through gruelling real-life chores with our BMW 2 Series Active Tourer.
You see, on the face of it, the 2 Series Active Tourer is just another car in BMW’s seemingly endless range of cars. It’s also one of the German brand’s newest cars so it’s packed with the latest tech, and it’s an MPV in a world of supposedly more fashionable SUVs. But it’s a lot more to it than that.
Since taking custody of the 2 Series Active Tourer I’ve been ploughing on the miles, and naturally, I’ve been using all of the car’s technology features.
The dashboard and the single piece of curved glass that houses the digital dials and touchscreen infotainment system are very similar to the one you’d find in BMW’s flagship electric car, the iX SUV. Not quite the same level of glitz and fancy trim, granted, but essentially the same set-up.
The whole dashboard looks super smart and the single piece of glass certainly gives the Active Tourer not only a very modern feel but also a surprisingly luxurious one in what is, essentially, a family bus. But what looks good is not always the best.
In my mind, BMW has been the master of infotainment systems since it first launched its iDrive in 2001 on the E65 7 Series limo. The combination of crystal-clear screen quality and an easy-to-use (and safe to use when driving) rotary wheel on the centre console was genius. You could flip between menus with just a flick of your wrist – it just worked beautifully.
Curiously, the new BMW i4 electric saloon (and, indeed, the iX) still has a rotary wheel on the centre console, but the 2 Series Active Tourer doesn’t. Sounds like a bit of a privileged thing to moan about, but now the only way to select icons and cycle through menus (and there are many, many menus in the latest iDrive 8 system) is by using the touchscreen.
The icons in the main menu screen are simply too small and the home button to flick between Apple CarPlay and the main system – which I use all of the time – is smaller than the fingernail on my pinky finger. It means that when you’re driving you have to lean across, take your eyes off the road and start prodding at the screen, which I just find too dangerous.
Couple this with a jostling ride from this car’s firm M Sport suspension, and finding the right bit of the screen to press at that crucial time is harder than it should be. I just think the removal of the iDrive rotary wheel is just a backward step and one that didn’t need to be done.
It’s a shame because the latest iDrive 8 system looks and works very well. The Technology Pack is an option well worth ticking to get the best from the system, as among a whole plethora of fancy features, it has Parking Assistant Plus.
No, it’s not a valet who jumps in and parks the car for you, but a 360-degree parking camera that makes parking a breeze. But more than that, you can swipe between different camera angles and with a CGI version of the car on the screen, it means kerbing an alloy is a very difficult thing to do. And when you factor in other features in the pack such as wireless phone charging and adaptive LED headlights (which allow you to drive with your full beams at night on without dazzling other drivers), its £1,150 price seems like a relative bargain.
As mentioned in our first report, this car is the 223i version meaning it’s the most powerful 2 Series Active Tourer until the plug-in hybrid versions arrive in a few months time. Its on-paper stats are impressive – 215bhp from a 2.0-litre petrol engine with 0-60mph taking just 6.8 seconds. I have a few big trips planned before BMW comes and takes the car off me, and I look forward to telling you more about how the car drives.